Press Release


Reinventing the Irish-American Relationship for the 21st Century
Young Irish leaders share views with Ambassador and Congressmen on Capitol Hill

On the 26th of July, graduates and current participants of the Washington-Ireland Program (WIP) will host a unique Forum on the Future of the Irish-American Relationship. The Forum will be addressed by the Irish Ambassador to the United States, His Excellency Mr. Noel Fahey as well as Congressmen Walsh, Higgins and Crowley. Prompted by US Ambassador to Ireland, James Kenny and his concern that young Irish people are no longer using the J-1 visa opportunities to work a summer in the USA, the event is the first Washington-Ireland Program alumni initiative in the US. Eager to brief the special guests of the vast changes they are experiencing on their island, these young Irish leaders will be inviting Ambassador Fahey and Members of Congress to identify ways to reinvent the traditional Irish American connection and make it more relevant to the 21st century.

Through a series of interactive panels, the Forum will address the following issues. What do Ireland and the United States think of each other? What is it that continues to connect these ever changing and diverse groups of people? How can this special relationship mature and move from something based on nostalgia to a more mutually rewarding partnership?

Both physically - by building the railroads and the canals - and culturally, through phenomena like Riverdance or the local Irish pub, the Irish have helped to shape the US. But what about the future? Explaining the motivation behind the Forum, organizer and recent WIP graduate David Russell said "History tells the story of Irish America in one particular way. In the early 21st Century we need to share new stories, stories informed by our modern connections forged through the arts, business, education and politics. And in particular, there are stories of the vital connections that programs like WIP create."

This event is part of a wider WIP Alumni project called "What is Ireland?" Consisting of a series of Forums, Washington is the second of four scheduled meetings. The first, held in Galway at NUIG, in January 2006 successfully engaged the wider community in a conversation about Ireland's future. Moving the focus to Washington, David Russell said, "My experience on WIP showed me how much our American friends are invested in Ireland and its future. We thought the 2006 program would be the perfect platform to bring the Forum here." The series hopes to convene again in Dublin and in Belfast in the next 12 months and is actively seeking sponsors. And if the invitation list is any indication, Rosemary O'Neill, Tim Losty, Tony Culley-Foster, Stella O'Leary, Brendan Fay, Trina Vargo, Patricia Harty amongst others, it has stuck a chord in the hearts of well-known Irish Americans who are eager to participate. Rosemary O'Neill said, "I really want this conversation to happen."

Initiatives like this are not unusual for graduates of the Washington-Ireland Program because this unique Program empowers its students to go out and make a difference. It selects thirty promising Irish university students every year and brings them to Washington to engage in professional internships and leadership training. Its goal is to prepare the next generation of leaders for Ireland, North and South. The forum is proof enough that its 300 graduates are continually inspired to achieve that goal.

The Forum will be held on Capitol Hill in the Longworth Building Room 1310 between 4 - 6 pm. For more details, call David Russell at 202.747.8664 or at


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